Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #116

Margaret I. King, University of Kentucky’s first Librarian and the namesake of the King Building was a Lexington native, who lived her entire life at her childhood home, 225 South Limestone Street.  Her father's (Gilbert Hinds King) company, Lexington Hydraulics and Manufacturing Company, led the way for what became Lexington’s water works system.  King attended the University of Kentucky graduating with honors in 1898 earning her Bachelor of Arts from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky.  She began her career doing clerical work in the Lexington law firm of Allen and Bronston from 1899 to 1905.  In 1905, she began her long career at the University of Kentucky by serving as secretary to President James K. Patterson.  

Library Club, 1. ? 2. Minnie Neville 3. Margaret King 4. Dean A. J. Hamilton 5. Freda Lenon 6. Margaret Tuttle
She became involved with the library when President Patterson asked her to organize the University’s first library in 1909.  While putting the library in order, she continued as secretary to the president until she was named the University’s first librarian in 1912.  During her career as librarian of the University, King continued her education.  She performed some graduate work at the University of Michigan, and in 1929, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Librarianship from Columbia University.  Some of King’s professional activities included serving as a trustee for the Lexington Public Library for many years, and directing the survey of Kentucky libraries from 1936-1938 for the American Library Association’s Survey of Research Materials in Southern Libraries.  King’s development of library methods courses eventually led to the establishment of a department of library science at the University of Kentucky.

Interior of the Carnegie Library, the first library on UK's campus
King oversaw the development of a modern university library and her contributions to the library were vast.  She was a dedicated employee who worked hard to improve the quality of the collection and the quality of service.  Dr. Thomas D. Clark, a UK History professor in the 1930’s and later chair of the department, recalled that King’s “whole orientation toward library management was getting books to students, running a good loan desk, and building a good reference department……”  President Donovan described King this way:  “She has built the library up from one that could be housed in a single room to a library that now contains more than 400,000 volumes and is fourth or fifth in size among the libraries of the South.  It would be impossible to estimate the value of her contribution to the University of Kentucky.” 

Library exhibit
In addition to making books accessible to students and faculty, King also facilitated a lecture series, changing exhibitions, and extension programs.  She taught library science and English courses at the university and encouraged her staff to travel to conferences and to obtain Library degrees.
King Library under construction
Outside of her career at the University, King was an active member of Christ Church Episcopal, now Christ Church Cathedral, where she was a Sunday school teacher, the head of the Altar Guild, and the head of the Girl’s Friendly Society for many years. 

Margaret I. King at home, 1949
King retired in 1949, her career at UK spanned 39 years.  In 1948 the Board of Trustees named the library in her name.  Although she retired as librarian, she continued to perform some work for the library at the University of Kentucky.  She died in Lexington on April 13, 1966.

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